Street Talk

While waiting on a mini-bus to get full in a taxi rank, a raggy young boy walks up to the taxi, comes by the door, removes his black hat that looked brown from dirt and starts to beg the people in the taxi for some money. “sanibonani bantu-abadala, bengi cela i-two rand ye sinkwa.” “Hello adults, I am asking for a 2 rand to buy bread.”

The first row of people look the other way, so does the second. He continues to repeat the same line. He looks at an old lady, begins to repeat his line when someone from the back row screams, “Hey boy, why don’t you go home?” The boy, who looks twelve, ignores the man and carries on to ask from the other people in the mini-bus. The man screams again, “Why don’t you go home? Go home man!” The boy who is about to go into pleading mode with the lady who’s sitting next to me because she looks like she’s about to grab her purse gets distracted when the man says, “If you tell me why you left home, I will give you the money you want.” There we go. He finally got his attention. The boy quickly looks at the man and then the sky for some idea for 2 seconds then goes on to say, “You know, old timer, you know how these things go. I was disrespectful to my parents so they kicked me out.” He looks back at the man, mildly rubbing his hat in between his hands, waiting for his reward.

The man looks excited, glad to finally have finally gotten what he wanted from the boy, an opportunity to preach his wisdom. “Go home,“ he shouts, “they are looking for you at home. You can clean yourself up instead of wasting our time asking for ‘2 rands’ here. Just go back home.”

The older ladies who were looking away all of a sudden had energy to add their vocals to this song. “Yes! That’s right!” “What is he doing here?” “Let him go back to his family!” “Look at him.”  “We don’t have money for you, go trouble your family!” They shout. The man takes some coins from his pocket and tosses them to the boy, who quickly grabs them, swiftly walks away, faster in his movements, almost smiling.

I sat there in this scene, so perplexed and upset. Here was a man offering this oh-so-simple advice. That all the boy needed to do was to “just go home.” It was as simple as that. ‘Just’ – That is all that he needed to do in order to stop being in taxi ranks begging for money.

Well, man in the taxi with the simple advice, If I wasn’t so upset that day I would’ve told you in person, but it’s not as simple as that.

Young children don’t ‘just’ leave homes for the dingy streets risking being hurt, killed, arrested and attacked.

Young children don’t leave homes. They leave houses. They leave houses where they don’t have family, have lost a loved one or have no one. They leave because they are kicked out. They leave because they are being raped by someone close to them and no one believes them or has time to listen to them. They leave because they are on drugs and do not want to be helped or no one will help them. They leave because there is no food at home and they have to provide for their families and themselves. They leave houses where they are breadwinners and have to go to the big city to look for work only to find the city has no work for them and they have no means to go back home or are too ashamed to go back empty handed. They can’t go home because their entire family is with them on the streets.

They can’t go home because they have no home.

I’m very sure this boy would’ve appreciated your advice if he didn’t hear from 10 other people on the daily. He would’ve appreciated you giving him advice on a shelter he could go to or somewhere where he could go enquire about a job. He would’ve preferred to just get the coins from you without your song, on repeat that he’s so sick of. If he wasn’t so desperate, he would’ve preferred for you to just be quiet and look the other way.

 

Let’s build homes. Let’s understand the stories behind the street child before we can offer our advice. Let’s be kind first.

It Is Written

One Tuesday in February, I was waiting in a bus station, when a young man walked up to me. He said “Hi.” I was irritated almost immediately, because I was tired from my mountains of bags I was carrying and my time at the bus station is when I like to think about my life. It’s a serial thinker thing.

He says, “Can I take a selfie with you?” I say, “No.” Fully irritated now. The man, who looks younger than me, gets a bit nervous but goes on to ask me why I didn’t want to take a photo with him. I tell him I don’t like the idea of my photograph going God knows where.

He starts to almost withdraw then goes on to tell me that he is a shy person who generally does not walk up to strangers to say hi let alone ask them to take a selfie with him. I felt horrible. Being an introvert myself, I understand him instantly.

We begin to talk and laugh openly. Our conversation leads to books. He tells me he started reading recently and would like me to recommend some books. I think to myself, I don’t think I’m the best person to ask because I haven’t read anything lately due to my busy days. I sometimes forget to breathe. Just before I can answer, the bus arrives and I tell him we should get going. “That isn’t our bus.” He says. I insist that it was the bus I used the day before and it took me home. He says, “Okay.” And reluctantly follows me.

It was the wrong bus.

We sit at the back of the bus and jump back into the conversation of books. “I haven’t read anything in a while but if I had to recommend a book, it would be ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho.” He tells me he is not familiar with the book, so I give him a summary. For those of you who haven’t read The Alchemist, it’s basically a book about following one’s dreams. It follows a young boy on a journey to finding his treasure or ‘destiny.’ The biggest lesson for him is listening to his gut, an inner voice or a “mysterious force,” as the book calls it. He is taught that, “In order to find your treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left you.”

I quote something from the book for him, “To realise one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one.” After saying this, the young man who was sitting next to us looks to us and says, “Sorry for interrupting, I hear you talking about The Alchemist and I’m reading that right now on my phone.”

Mind you, we are on a bus that takes us the long way home. Our trip would take 30 minutes longer but we’d completely forgotten about that debacle.

Our conversation’s newest member is a web designer, self-taught. The shy young man is a photographer, self-taught. We talk about our dreams, aspirations, our personal challenges, our community’s challenges, what we find interesting, what is bothering us and we share advice with one another. We all have projects in mind but we don’t know how to kick start them. What we found, during this entire conversation was one simple thing, one truth, that was common to us all. We wanted to create something that could help others to create something themselves. We all wanted to help the youth in our community in order to allow them to dream bigger, work a bit more and not give up.

I tell them, “it’s funny I should bump into a web designer and a photographer, because I’ve been wanting to set up a website for the longest time now.” They ask me what my website will be about.

At this point, I’m a bit stuck because I’d been thinking about a website for a while now but I never could come up with one concept to go with amongst the hundreds of ideas I have. I felt that I couldn’t really pinpoint what it is that I wanted to work on, but inside, I knew that this was where to start. People would say to me, “Go decide on that one topic and then come pitch the idea.” So I stopped talk about it because I was scared to sound like I didn’t know what I wanted.

Then I heard myself say, “It’s going to be a website where I write about dreams I want to make come true. I want other people’s cooperation in order to make them come true. I want us to make other people’s dreams come true and we should have projects to do in order to make this happen. This is how I serve the people.”

It felt so raw and so truthful. I could finally put my hundreds of ideas into one paragraph and be satisfied everything I wanted to do was covered.

The young men agreed to help me and join me on my projects. The web designer offered to make a site for me. I didn’t end up using his expertise. I went home and decided to educate myself on the basics and 2 weeks later, here it is, Jam Jar.

It’s so funny that The Alchemist brought us together and made us confirm that God leaves omens for you throughout the process, and if you’re patient enough, you’ll see what they mean. That once you opened yourself up a bit more and didn’t ignore that random stranger who disturbed your fatigued presence at the bus stop, you didn’t miss the signs and weren’t left alone experiencing the longest bus ride home

 

Welcome. We hope your dreams come true.